There has been at least as much attention focused on Move On’s disrespect for General David Petraeus as upon the consequences of the Republicans recent decision to keep 130,000 troops in Iraq until next July. Now the debate has expanded to The New York Times’s decision to air the Move On advertisement and sell the page at a discount.
So now the chief topic on the public agenda is disrespect for our fighting men plus the old and false tale that the national media has a liberal bias. One thing is clear. Folks on the left have been reminded once more how powerful and efficient the conservative noise machine is, and they should take care not to make foolish mistakes.
But human lives are at stake here, and the nation has just been forced into extending its deadly commitment to policing a raging civil war. Because of t his and the damage the war is doing to the military, more than twenty retired generals have spoken out against Bush’s Iraq policy. They are largely died in the wool Republicans who put country over party. It is likely that cushy consulting jobs and board seats will become less available to them as a result of their honesty.
The truth is that David Petraeus saved Bush’s bacon in the short term. The brainy general, oozing integrity and sincerity, spun limited successes into a picture of progress and bought nine months more for Bush’s war. His PhD. Dissertation was on the lessons of Vietnam, and he concluded that Colin Powell’s “all or nothing approach was wrong. Petraeus is focused on counterinsurgency, and Iraq has become his laboratory. One hopes he does not confuse civil war for insurgency. He has said that the level of violence the Brits faced in Northern Ireland two decades ago would be an acceptable goal in Iraq. Even that would not be acceptable as Iraq in the long term should not be our problem. Republicans tout him as Bush’s Grant, but they should examine his thinking very carefully. He is contemplating a long-term, actively involved presence in Iraq.
It would be helpful if the talking heads and scribes would recall that General Petraeus’s efforts to stabilize Mosul were not long-lasting. He left there in February, 2004, and it was completely in insurgent hands by November. In May 2004, he began training the Iraqi army; it is still ineffective. The most recent Pentagon report says that only 40% of the Iraqi police trained by the coalition are still in place. The report also demonstrated that there was no significant drop in civilian casualties this summer. There was a decline in civilian deaths in Iraq, but most of it became before the surge. About 150 are now wounded or killed each day. Among the casualties are five aids to Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani who have been murdered since late August. A member of the parliament reports that violence has escalated in Basra with 100 being shot in the previous week. If this is true, it seems that violence is sharply increasing since the surge. It is reported that several Shiites are about to resign from the Interior ministry because of the breakdown of security in Basra.
More Iraqis than before are telling pollsters that security has worsened in their neighborhoods since the surge began, and 63% of them say the invasion was wrong. So much for the learned general’s testimony--
The slightly improved situation General Petraeus pointed to was based largely on some pretty dicey diplomacy, rather than a consequence of the “surge” in troop strength. In Anbar province, the US bought off Sunni warlords. True, they had come to oppose foreign terrorists because, in the words of David Ignatius, the “al-Qaeda thugs …were marrying their women and blocking their smuggling routes.” Recently Abdul Sattar Abu Risha, architect of the “Anbar Model” was murdered. How long his Anbar Salvation Council’s warlords will stay bought off is anyone’s guess. They must be strongly tempted to use their new weapons to improve their bargaining position visa vis the Shiites, some of whom the US is also busy buying off.
At this moment, the US is dealing with the Supreme [Shiite] Islamic Council and this has made it possible for the Badr Organization militia to at least temporarily check Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which is now taking 6 months off to reorganize. U.S. involvement in intra-Shiite rivalries will not yield a permanent solution any more than involvement with the Sunni warlords will bring permanent peace to Anbar.
The cholera outbreak in northern Iraq is now spreading to Baghdad, and it may buy the US some time. The US military is reportedly delaying chlorine shipments from Jordan, and the Sunnis are bombing chlorine trucks. Without chlorine, water will not be purified and the outbreak will spread. This could help dampen the civil war for a time
Diplomacy and the spread of cholera have bought some time, we can only hope it is used to extricate US soldiers from the daily policing of Iraq and involvement in the civil war set off by Bush’s invasion. By any accounting, there is not a great deal of time left to adopt a policy that will protect American lives, deal with common concerns about our national interest in the region.
Four factors suggest that the U.S. must change course long before July, 2008.
(1) There are signs of even greater political instability in Iraq. Tariq al-Hashimi, the Sunni vice president of Iraq, says there is a growing movement for a vote of no confidence in the al-Maliki government. As much as the U.S. is dissatisfied with al-Maliki, his fall might well bring greater intra-Iraqi hostility. A few days ago, two members of the Allawi coalition have withdrawn. The ruling coalition has lost the support of the Al-Sadr Trend. That bloc was created in 2004 by Grand Ayatollah Sistani. Efforts are being made to bring Al-Sadr into a new fundamentalist Shiite bloc, but he would have to be offered more to gain his cooperation. That does not bode well for U.S. policy. There were reports that al-Maiiki was quietly negotiating for support from the Baathist. Prospects for political stability are not improving.
(2) There is growing evidence that Iranian arms are getting into the Iraqi black market via Peshmerga, the Kurdish paramilitary. If the firmer is true, look for a higher level of hostilities between Shiites and Sunnis, which can only help the Kurds gain even more independence. This also suggests that the U.S. authorities either lack a good handle on how Iranian arms are getting into Iraq or that they have been lying to us. Maybe it is both. US authorities are now investigating Blackwater mercenaries accused of selling weapons on the Iraqi black market. If Mitt Romney becomes president, the US will probably look the other way on Blackwater abuses. His antiterrorism advisor and national security advisor is Cofer Black of Blackwater.
(3) It is only a matter of months before the Pentagon cannot sustain anything approaching current troop levels much longer. The Pentagon is now paying Special Forces troops an annual $20,000 bonus for reenlisting for four years. There are reports that some airmen and sailors have been given weapons and duties as troops on the ground. The number of mercenaries such as Blackwater operatives is close to the number of troops there. However, Blackwater operatives have been denounced by the Iraqi government for reckless shooting of civilians. The Iraqi Interior Ministry is investigating seven incidents involving Blackwater in as many months. Heavy reliance upon these mercenaries may prove to have been a great mistake. What happens if the Iraqis get serious about removing Blackwater troops from their country?
(4) According to analyst Barnett Rubin, “ The Bush-Cheney administration has surrendered much of Afghanistan to the Taliban and much of Pakistan to al-Qaida.” NATO countries are not meeting their troop quotas there and Al Qaeda is gaining ground. The adventure in Iraq has damaged US efforts in Afghanistan almost from the outset.
If those who set the agenda for national discussion can divert their attention from the Move On debate, they might also begin a serious discussion of what our national interest is in the area.
That national interest is largely about oil, but don’t expect the word “oil” to pass the lips of politicians. The need to control the level of Iraqi oil production and flow of oil is very important. Alan Greenspan has mentioned this, but then found it necessary to back-peddle. In discussing the possible attack on Iran, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger wrote in The Washington Post:
An Iran that practices subversion and seeks regional hegemony - which appears to be the current trend - must be faced with lines it will not be permitted to cross. The industrial nations cannot accept radical forces dominating a region on which their economies depend.
Americans should not expect to benefit from this ability to control the flow of oil in the short term. In the long term, this might be more important as China and India seek more oil. But the price will be very high gas prices. Big oil wanted the invasion to reduce Iraqi production and jack up prices. Iraqi production still has not returned to pre-invasion levels
Much will be said on all sides about the need to retain a powerful presence in the region to checkmate Iran. It will be said that a US withdrawal would be viewed as a clear sign of lack of resolve and weakness leading to the Iranization of some states in the Middle East. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is advancing in years, and his wife has found it necessary to insist that he is in good health. It is unclear that his son and heir “Jimmy” will retain the loyalty of Egypt’s huge military or that he will be able to contain the growing Islamic radicalism there. In Syria, Bashar al Assad, pressured by US policies, has strengthened ties to Iran and seems to be abandoning his late father’s devotion to secularism. Now it appears that Syria may have been working with North Korea to start a nuclear program. Israel recently bombed what was rumored to be a nuclear facility there.
Is Israel’s recent bombing of an alleged North Korean facility in Syria a prelude to the US bombing nuclear and military facilities in Iran? If this is a possibility, there is all the more reason for a serious assessment of our prospects in Iraq and our interests in the region. The fuss about whether Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be permitted to speak at Columbia University is part of the NeoCon effort to build support for an attack. He has been refused access to Ground Zero, where he would probably have reminded listeners that Iran too has suffered at the hands of Al Qaeda. The consequences of attacking Iran deserve thorough investigation and discussion.
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- Sherm spent seven years writing an analytical chronicle of what the Republicans have been up to since the 1970s. It discusses elements in the Republican coalition, their ideologies, strategies, informational and financial resources, and election shenanigans. Abuses of power by the Reagan and G. W. Bush administration and the Republican Congresses are detailed. The New Republican Coalition : Its Rise and Impact, The Seventies to Present (Publish America) can be acquired by calling 301-695-1707. On line, go to http://www.publishamerica.com/shopping. It can also be obtained through the on-line operations of Amazon and Barnes and Noble. Do not consider purchasing it if you are looking for something that mirrors the mainstream media!